Tega Brain (TB) is an artist and environmental engineer making eccentric engineering. Her work intersects art, ecology and engineering, addressing the scope and politics of emerging technologies. It takes the form of online interventions, site specific public works, experimental infrastructures and poetic information systems. Tega is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Digital Media, New York University. She is an affiliate at Data & Society and works with the Processing Foundation on the Learning to Teach conference series and p5js project. She has done residencies at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, New York City, GASP Public Art Park, and at the Environmental Health Clinic, New York University.
Marius Watz (MW) is an artist working with visual abstraction through generative software processes. Based in Oslo, his work focuses on the synthesis of form as the product of parametric behaviors. He is known for hard-edged geometrical forms and vivid colors, with outputs ranging from pure software works to public projections and physical objects produced with digital fabrication technology.
Reviewer (GL) is the Professor, Golan Levin.
TB: This is an elegant design with striking color palette. Details of the ball movment could be better considered, e.g. I would like the ball to fall fast but then move as per the speed that represents the time. Consider if there is a more efficient way to code this without so many variables.
MW: Clean visual concept that is easy to “read” as a clock. The animation is compelling, but as stated, more could have been done with the colors.
GL: The concept is not particularly surprising, but the abstraction is attractive and clean. Your design is a good testbed for improving your ability to control colors computationally, and your colors could indeed be improved; the real way to test the colors would be to eliminate that black stroke around your shapes. The appeal of the project could be improved if the motions involved downward acceleration, i.e. as if the balls were being pulled by gravity rather than just linearly interpolating from one place to another.
TB: Great concept and interesting soundscape produced by your sketch. The visuals and palette could be further refined – at the moment these elements appear too random and therefore lack character.
MW: This sound-driven concept violates some basic clock logic: It is not easily read, the use of both sound and rapidly changing graphics makes it obtrusive. The use of color seems arbitrary.
GL: The concept of a drum-machine clock is an ingenious starting point. However, the visuals, and especially their colors, leave something to be desired —as long as you’re making them, they should be good. My main complaint is that the clock doesn’t sound much different at different times of day — do you disagree? The code in your blog post is poorly formatted.
TB: This is a strong design. The motion and placement of the letters is really effective, and although it’s great to see your experimentation with different techniques for achieving 3D, I don’t think it’s necessary to be able to pivot around the letters.
MW: Intriguing concept, but the execution doesn’t deliver. The use of 3D and rigid body stacking could be a great visual solution for a clock that is interesting to watch over time, it needs to include a strategy to guarantee readability at a glance.
GL: You got halfway there. The tower of 3D type remains a worthy goal which, I want to be clear, I’m certain you could achieve. Short of this, the system you made lacks some character, but the basic graphic concept is sound.
TB: More of a stop watch than a clock, the visual design of this piece is well considered and it’s a nice example telling a story with data. Perhaps part of the animation could relate to the time of day also?
MW: The use of a character as a anthropomorphic timer display slash personal assistant is cute and easy to grasp. Using caffeination is a relatable example, although the “science” of caffeine effectiveness etc. is likely to be a lot more variable than indicated here. It would have been nice to see some additional functions boosting the interestingness of the application, say random events or effects related to other environmental effects like local rain reports etc.
GL: Eh. I think it’s trying too hard to be cute, and it ends up cloying, with a muddy concept. I don’t see the relationship between a robot and caffeine (why a robot? why not a rabbit?); I don’t understand how this clock is supposed to know how much caffeine I have or haven’t consumed; and (sorry) I don’t really understand how this is a clock. A timer, I guess, with an unclear method for being reset.
TB: Great work on producing an original, prodedural response made in the tradition of conceptual art. But how could you turn your algorithm into something that relates to the passage of time in a more direct sense? Eg. everyones innate sense of the length of a second or minute. etc.
MW: A multi-person conditional drawing related to time is conceptually interesting, but rather difficult to evaluate based on what can be seen online. So points for inspiration, but it feels like more work should have been put into designing the drawing task to produce something pertinent to the task.
GL: OK, so: serious points for having the experimental idea of constructing a clock out of (algorithmically choreographed) people—and for actually organizing the performance. That said, the actual execution is flabby. Sorry, but I don’t see how the result is a clock. A timed activity, sure. The problem (it seems to me) is that the participants are seriously under-constrained, with insufficiently precise instructions. One person is drawing cats, another is drawing his autobiography, another is drawing some music? It barely holds together as an algorithmic drawing, let alone as a timepiece. Perhaps something isn’t being communicated well in the documentation.
TB: This is a wonderful personal perspective on the clock assignment. The visual design and choice of the graph paper provides a hand made quality to the piece to support the concept. Well done.
MW: The spinning circles and joints make for a compelling visual. The idea of including counters related to personally significant time measurements (time since last home visit etc.) is both conceptually interesting and helps provide visual complexity to the visual, but is hard to understand intuitively (consider a mouseover reveal?)
GL: It’s attractive looking. I respect that it’s highly individualized (i.e. it measures your personal, subjective experience).
TB: This is a fun and chaotic response to the brief. Consider loading in some of the data as csv files or similar and using an array as it will save you having to set up all those variables!
MW: Nice way to use characters and visual details (backgrounds, snow vs grass etc) to indicate environmental parameters like time of day and weather. The overall composition feels a little too “busy” visually, and the readability of the “stats” screen is not optimal, but the general effect is charming.
GL: A “day in the life of a student” clock is familiar territory for undergraduate assignments, but is certainly a legitimate reflection of your subjectivity. I recognize that a lot of work went into this stew. Unfortunately — gah — it’s downright painful to look at: unappealing colors, clashing textures (rain, windows, people, text), hideous typography (what is that font on the Fence?), mix of pixelated graphics (people, buildings) with curved vector graphics (sun, helvetica). The project could be cleaned up a lot; it needs LESS.
TB: This is an interesting concept that explores typography and legibility in a fascinating way. What are the edges of what can be recognized and read here? It was unclear in your description whether you considered the least amount/most amount of millisecond repetition that still allow the larger letters to be read. Worth further exploration.
MW: The sketches with clouds of numbers etc. show potential for a nice typographic treatment, but the execution lacks refinement and ultimately feels too raw. Checking pixel color to draw inside a shape is a nice trick, though.
GL: Alright, typographic play it is. Fine start; needs more work. Documentation seems hurried.
TB: This piece has a well refined aesthetic however the animation runs very slow – is there a way to optimize your code? Consider the how you are varying the image based on the time – the transitions are very subtle and could do with further development.
MW: Visually speaking, this execution has a lot of potential. The blobby “clouds” and the color scheme do have a soothing feeling, although the motion could be slower and more subtle to help that effect. The logic of hours being indicated by the number of stems feels too literal, and I wish there could be other time-based shifts in the visual throughout the day. Using colors to reinforce the time of day would have been an easy win.
GL: Attractive use of shapes (good graphical craft). It’s not exactly legible. Does this matter?
TB: This is a fantastically rich concept. I love the idea of measuring time by presence of smell (the decay of molecules) and also in a way that is not exact. Very poetic. Well done.
MW: This feels odd at first sight, but in the end the Terry Gilliam-esque “stiffness” of the animation becomes its charm. It works as an interactive animation, but is somewhat less convincing as a time piece. More visual details and a clearer indication / explanation of the time aspect would have helped.
GL: Clean concept. More of a timer than a clock, but the ideas are cousins. Well documented.
TB: This is a great concept and a well designed realization. Is there a way you could indicate hours? By color or unevenness? It might also be interesting to look into different species tree rings for ideas on how to vary your design.
MW: The metaphor of tree rings is a good choice, and I applaud the courage to make the animation almost imperceptibly slow. But while the slowness is appropriate, the range of visual evolution feels too limited. It would be more successful if the forms got increasingly distorted as time passes. Also, consider occasional “fast” events (bubbles? raindrops?) to remind the viewer that the animation is in fact happening.
GL: Attractive visual design (excellent geometry effort). I wish the mechanism were a little better explained (how it looks at different times of day). I’m confused by what the following means: that it totally changes when I click on it. I don’t understand that.
TB: What a great result. I also love the idea of revealing the time, and would love to see this refined further. The animation and motion is well designed, and the paired back palette and aesthetic works well.
MW: The original idea (a grid / cell network of clocks) has potential, but the delivery falls short. The tiny clock pieces feel weak and disconnected, which could have been corrected using scale or other visual detailing. The need for user interaction detracts from its function as a time piece, there is no reason why the dynamic aspect couldn’t be automated using simulated random XY motion.
GL: I appreciate that it’s interactive; I like the idea of layering clock functionality into a game, or bringing a clock to life through a game mechanic. It might be nice if there were some sort of interaction or physics (collisions) between my ship and the surrounding clocks. Implement “Asteroids”? Your project is nice looking, but as a game, dull: I feel like it still needs something.
TB: It is an interesting proposition to explore the passing of time in the frequency domain. This could be further developed with some more consideration/iteration on the experience and affect of the sound. Well done.
MW: This piece may have potential as free-standing piece of sound art, but as presented the visual aspect is barely more than a debug view. It might have been wiser to declare that there be no visual component, and instead define a spatial context that it might live in. As a sonification of time, the logic is quite literal and ultimately likely to be unpleasant to spend time around. A sound piece should take into account how bearable exposure to that sound might be.
GL: Strong idea and an excellent start. I feel like it could use another revision (more tinkering with the ratios, sonic algorithms, and resulting harmonies). For example: what if the hours and minutes were amplitude-modulating each other, rather than just adding tones? The graphics help (even though I know you didn’t consider them to be part of the project); as long as you’re going to do them, you have to make them more considered.
TB: This is a fantastic concept, kind of a 3d graphics vanitas. The aesthetic outcomes are also very satisifying – could you incorporate the passing of hours somehow?
MW: Kudos for the use of textures to maximize visual unpleasantness, while simultaneously recreating an early net art retro feel. The animation is amusing and technically time-driven, but sadly its function as a time piece seems less than optimal.
GL: Cute premise and good graphical exploration; I admire your foray into 3D. Might be worth revising — i.e., this is a very satisfying start. I wonder how realistic you could get the mold to look? This is very cartoony, which is not bad.
TB: Fantastic result. This is beautifully fabricated especially given the limited time. Well done on such an innovative take on a sun dial. Could you make it solar powered?
MW: It’s welcome to see a hybrid analog/digital solution in the mix, and the extension of a sun dial to include an alarm function is a nicely defined challenge. The design of the dial is basic but perfectly adequate, and the interactive logic for setting the alarm time works well.
GL: Good job all around. A potential viral hit, whose success online will hinge on fine details of the documentation. Making it solar-powered (as Tega suggests) will tighten it up.
TB: (I think) this is a original and compelling concept but you have not explained your idea or process well. If I play the game badly, is the time shown meant to become increasingly inaccurate? That is a great idea if so. Don’t overlook how important documentation is even if you are not totally satisfied by the final outcome of your process.
MW: A somewhat confusing sketch, both in concept and execution. Using time as a game element certainly has potential, it seems illogical that the user has to interact to keep time “running”. As a game it might have some potential, but as a clock or illustration of time it needs work.
GL: A laudable start. But I confess I don’t understand how to play, nor how to read the clock. I don’t understand the reward/penalty structure of the game: am I supposed to jump over things, or collect them by rolling through them? This feels like a very good start but more work is needed at the interface, and in the documentation.
TB: Fantastic concept. This is a wonderful take on the clock and I would also love to see this developed further with some more development on visual design etc. Well done.
MW: Approaching time in terms of chunks of activities to be experienced is intriguing, but it is hard to tell from the current sketch that it is showing anything but random suggestions. Additional cues, such as indications of assumed time units or hints that the sketch is aware of the current time of day, would help. Simple animation of the text hints would help the sketch appear less static.
GL: Elegant, and nicely conceived. It’s a minor thing, but the typography and colors could use a little work, to harmonize better with the idea.
TB: The animation very satisfying and well considered, however its relationship to the passage of time could be better developed. Is it dropping every 10 seconds? Would love to see this further developed with a drop for different time intervals. Also, I didn’t understand your question about calling the object properties – definitely ask Golan about this!
MW: The visual metaphor of a drop of liquid could be promising, but this sketch feels like the bare minimum of effort.
GL: It feels mechanical, rather than organic, and there’s not much here to keep me engaged.
TB: This is a gorgeous result. Although you have used many of the conventional approaches to time telling, your result here is visually compelling and suprising. Well done.
MW: The animation clearly recalls the form of a clock, and the extension of time as a controlling parameter for the visual construction (tree) has promise. Unfortunately, the tree itself feels contrived – rotating it makes sense in terms of signaling time, but not in terms of the tree as an object.
GL: It’s clean, and the visual design is pleasing. Overall, I don’t quite understand the metaphor: why is the tree rotating? (Am I in a spinning vehicle, looking out the port window? Why?) It might have been enough (of a graphic concept) if the tree expressed the time solely through its recursive design, without the rotation and the 12 pips around the standard clock face.
TB: I am intrigued by this concept! Pairing computational time (all about speed and efficiency) with time from a life span perspective is great. However your execution would benefit from some more iteration. Although the design is visually compelling it would be great if it more clearly communicated what you are exploring.
MW: Time is in itself the ultimate memento mori, so a death clock is an intriguing idea. The approach shown here feels too abstract and arbitrary, however. To be believable, the viewer would need more explanation of the logic behind what is shown. (Also, minus for not providing a testable version.)
GL: Powerful inquiry. I really respect the idea of a clock which is intended to be checked over the course of decades or centuries. The visual design doesn’t live up to the profundity of the overall concept.